What. The. Hell. Just. Happened.
For how much significance it carries, the DeAndre Jordan debacle was an absolute joke. Take a step back and examine it without the parameters of an NBA analyst, and it sounds like satire. I mean, the Clippers actually refused to leave DeAndre's house until he signed.
But how did this situation even begin?
On Monday, DeAndre reportedly called Doc Rivers about having seconds thoughts about his decision. Since nothing is official until the July 9th date (when the moratorium ends), Doc covertly set up a meeting with DeAndre. News about the meeting slowly leaked out, and when Chandler Parsons tweeted "the emoji heard 'round the world," it set into motion a series of events that would change the course of NBA twitter history. Parsons' airplane emoji was meant to show how the Mavs' pitch team was traveling to DeAndre's home in Houston to lock him up.
For such an innocently funny tweet, the Clippers did not take it lying down. They came out in droves, tweeting various emojis of transportation. Even Chris Paul, one of the most surly and serious veterans in the NBA got into the action tweeting a banana boat emoji. Before you knew what was happening, the entire sporting world got into it. Kobe tweeted his titles. Roger Federer tweeted Kobe. And it hit a fever pitch (in terms of comedy) when Paul Pierce tweeted a picture of a rocketship.
Once the Clippers meeting with DeAndre was underway, there was no chance they'd let him meet with the Mavs. Blake Griffin's oh-so-subtle picture of a chair barricading a room underscored the Clippers' mindset last night. They weren't going to leave until they had a written agreement. And the drama hit a new stratosphere when it was reported that Mark Cuban was frantically driving around trying to find DeAndre's house.
When the dust had finally cleared, DeAndre was playing cards and video games as a Clipper, and the Western Conference had one more title contender. But what led to DeAndre signing with the Mavs in the first place?
Nothing in DeAndre's basketball career ever went smoothly. Coming out of Houston as the nationally 8th ranked high school recruit (per Rivals), he committed to nearby Texas A+M and coach Billy Gillipsie. Before the season started Gillipsie left to take head coaching job at Kentucky. His replacement Mark Turgeon despised DeAndre, and showed very little interest in developing him as a center. In A+M's two tournament games Jordan played just 20 combined minutes.
From there, the label of 'project center' and 'head-case' followed him. When he declared for the draft his scouting report was riddled with words like 'raw,' 'immature,' and 'bust.' He was compared to Patrick O'Bryant and Desagana Diop. A guy with top-10 potential fell all the way to the second round, and even when the Clippers picked him there was a split amongst the organization. Half wanted Jordan, while the other half wanted to draft Mike Taylor.
As a long-term project, DeAndre slowly started to pan out. He made huge strides on each end of the floor, and used his considerable athleticism to become a fierce rebounder and rim protector. But his biggest weakness still remained. Though his minutes had risen to over 25 per game by the 2010-2011 season, he was still just a 45% FT shooter. Just imagine how humiliating it was for him to be yanked late in close games, because Coach Vinny del Negro couldn't risk an intentional foul on DeAndre. Or worse, when he was intentionally fouled. A hulking 6'11'' man looked like a scared middle-schooler in his first varsity game when he went to the line. Even though he had improved his game exponentially, he still had no respect.
When Doc Rivers arrived in L.A. after the 2012-2013 season, his first order of business was trying to reinvigorate DeAndre. He made him part of the Clippers Big 3 (along with Chris Paul and Blake). He told reporters and anyone who would listen that DeAndre would win Defensive Player of the Year. He even compared DeAndre to Bill Russell! Doc sold him on the 'play defense and set screens' role, and DeAndre was content never having plays run for him. He would just do everything else, and the success would come.
This past season, Jordan finally became the player everyone wanted him to be. He was just the second player to average 15 rebounds per game since 2003, and also set a career high in points and FG%. Jordan's 71 % from the field was the second-best mark in NBA history. He even sustained his remarkable run of durability by playing all 82 games. He hasn't missed a game in over 4 seasons. And yet, his struggle for respect raged on. He was humiliated as the subject of 'hack-a-shaq' techniques in the playoffs. He shot 28 free throws in the first half of one playoff game. For comparison's sake, Sacramento led all teams in FT attempts per game, at 29.3. Sure, DeAndre was a great defender and rebounder. But he was still the guy who you can't run plays for, and who can't shoot free throws.
At pitch meetings this summer, Dallas knew how to get through to DeAndre. While the Clippers offered him the max, that wasn't what he valued. He wanted to be a featured player in the offense. As a guy who had never gotten the respect he felt he deserved, it must have been nice to be wooed. When Dallas won his ear, it shouldn't really have surprised anyone.
On one hand, you have the Clippers. The team that won't run plays for you and a point guard who berates you in practice and doesn't give you affection.
On the other, there's Dallas. With the cool teammate who takes you out every night, the radical owner who wants to make you a star, and a coach who's showing you all the ways he plans on featuring you in the offense. Even DeAndre's agent wanted him to go to the Mavericks.
If you were DeAndre, who would you choose? Of course he went with Dallas coming out of the pitch meeting. But after he got some distance from the decision, he realized what he was leaving behind. He was reportedly 'emotionally tormented' by the situation.
DeAndre's final decision to go back to L.A. showed how emotional he is. He made an impulsive decision by jumping ship initially. The team that eventually won his ear was the one who appealed to his sensitivities. Pretty much every important Clipper came out to Houston to meet with DeAndre, and made him feel wanted. Chris Paul made amends with him. Blake Griffin is his best friend on the team. And Doc + Pierce wouldn't leave until he signed the deal. After hitting all the wrong notes during their first meeting with DJ, the Clips absolutely crushed the second meeting, and in the process saved their championship hopes.
And we'll always have this day. After all, tweets are forever.